Category: Real Estate

What To Consider When Buying A House Next To A Vacant Lot

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Looking at homes which are adjacent to vacant or nearby undeveloped land always comes with a question mark. When viewing these homes use caution and take emotion out of the equation. Rather than becoming enamored with the vast open space behind the house, buyers should use a critical eye instead… envisioning the back of another house, an apartment complex, a shopping center, or busy road. Avoid potentially nasty surprises by investigating and verifying the ownership, zoning and approved use of that land before you buy.

Research County Records

In most areas, researching a property further may be as simple as reviewing county records online to see who owns the property, and what type of use the land is zoned for. Check on zoning regulations in the specific area you’re interested in to see what is permissible on that property.

If the land is not zoned solely as residential, it could be designated for either mixed-use or commercial development. Land in a mixed-use zone could be developed as a planned community, with a combination of residential housing, office, retail, medical, and recreational spaces.

Land that is zoned as commercial should be a major red flag. You could end up living next to a warehouse, service station or a shopping center. You should also dig a little farther and check with the town’s planning department to see if any development proposals are being discussed or are already on the books.

You could also encounter a vacant property that backs to a conservation easement. Unlike some easements, a conservation easement is favorable, because it may allow limited residential use or agricultural activities but prohibit commercial development.

Buying the Vacant Lot: Pros and Cons

If you want to keep the land next to you undeveloped or increase your property size and value, you might consider buying the vacant land. This circumstance is ideal when you have a large family with kids. You also know that nobody else will be building a home on that vacant lot, giving you greater peace of mind and privacy.

Keep in mind that you will have to pay higher property taxes when you are purchasing both your house and the vacant lot next door. Also, if the owner of the vacant lot is aware that you are buying the other property, they may try to increase the sales price knowing that you are a motivated buyer. So be careful and check the real estate market to see if there is any sudden mark up to the asking price. You may be able to get the property at a reduced price from a property owner who doesn’t want to deal with the continued maintenance and upkeep of it.

If you don’t see any sign on the property that shows it is for sale, this situation doesn’t mean that you can’t still make an offer for the property. You will have to do some research gathering at the property assessor’s office to find out who is the owner of the lot and whether they would be interested in selling it.

Some property owners don’t consider purchasing the adjacent property because they think that they have to take out a second mortgage. Yet some lenders will allow you to add the lot to your existing mortgage when deeding it onto your property. Check with your trusted mortgage professional to see if this is an option.

Staging Bedrooms For The Modern Buyer

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If you want to sell your home fast and expect to get your asking price, you must stage it to attract as many buyers as possible. Home staging is a strategy that many sellers use to show off their property’s potential, and it’s one of the most important tasks you can do before putting your house on the market.

Staging makes it easier for buyers to visualize the space as their future home while allowing them to picture how they could use the space. It’s important to show them an inviting and comfortable sleeping environment. By following a few simple “do’s and don’ts” you may be able to increase the sale price by up to 5% according to many real estate agents.

Declutter and Downsize

Begin your bedroom-staging process by decluttering. Many bedrooms—especially infrequently used ones like guest bedrooms—become a dumping ground for extra bedding, clothes, and accessories. Remove all items from bedroom closets, as they might distract buyers during home showings. Plus, an empty closet can create a feeling of ample storage space.

Depersonalize the rooms by getting rid of family photos, religious and political items, as well as knickknacks and trophies. A bedroom will look more complete and thoughtfully staged with a large painting or framed print hung on the wall above the head of the bed. Good rule of thumb is to have the piece at eye-level for the average sized person. A single piece of art should be hung about 60 inches from the center of the piece to the floor.

Make the Bed the Focal Point

The bed is the bedroom’s main focal point, so it’s important you give it extra attention. Sellers should make up the beds in a luxurious yet simple way. A properly made bed is key to a well-designed bedroom that can win over any buyer. Choose neutral bedding that can appeal to most design preferences. Use new standard bed pillows, rather than ones that are flat or an odd shape. Then finish off the look with a few throw pillows that provide a fun pop of color.

Don’t Forget About Lighting

Show off every bedroom in the best light possible. When staging your bedroom, make sure you maximize the amount of beautiful natural light while including a mixture of ambient and accent. Ambient lighting provides the primary illumination for a room and includes overhead lights. The most common accent lights are table lamps, wall fixtures or sconces.

Remember to avoid heavy draperies and curtains with bold prints or colors; they can distract buyers and use the correct size bulbs for lamps and fixtures. A 40- to 60-watt soft white or warm white bulb is most commonly recommended for bedrooms.

Don’t Display Your Pets and Their Stuff

We love our pets, but unfortunately, prospective buyers might not feel the same way. Pet crates, beds, and toys can possibly deter potential buyers. If you have pets, be sure to remove any traces of them, especially before you take listing photos. This will eliminate the possibility of buyers assuming your house smells of pets because they see traces of them in your home. It’s also a good idea to have a trusted friend or relative watch your pet during showings.

Rental Improvements That Maximize Profits

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When you renovate your property, you’re showing potential renters that you care enough to make your property as attractive as possible to potential tenants. Yet, Many landlords make the mistake of over improving a rental property. Rentals need to be hard-wearing, since many tenants don’t respect the property as they would their own home. When tenants leave, the landlord needs to turn the property around quickly to keep income flowing. If landlords are going to be spending money on improving their rental property to attract higher-quality tenants and boost property values, it’s important to focus on the right things.

Which Improvements Matter Most

Homeowners generally get the most bang for their buck in renovations of kitchens and baths.Generally with rentals, improvements don’t need to be as expensive as those in sold residences and flips. Landlords should spend their money on plumbing and cosmetic upgrades (kitchens, baths, flooring, and painting) to ensure against water damage or other upkeep and make the unit presentable. Spending extra cash on tiling, baseboards, or fancy fixtures is often money down the drain.

While renovating your kitchen, it’s easy to go appliance crazy and see no return for the money put into those new appliances. There isn’t a financial benefit by splurging on a $3,000 side-by-side when there are models that look similar and do the same job for a third of the price.

Now, there are a few reasons to update older appliances that should be noted. Since the kitchen is often the focal point of a home, new kitchen appliances may be just the thing that attracts prospective tenants. This could be done as simply as having them all the same color and hopefully from the same decade. Keeping your properties appliances in great condition can cut down on the volume of maintenance requests you might receive from renters. Also, renters appreciate the newer energy efficient models since they’ll most likely save them money on electricity bills.

High-End Look Without The Cost

It’s possible to achieve a high-end look with a mid-priced budget. Quartz countertops have a fairly uniform price and always look good. Vinyl plank flooring, when chosen wisely in lighter beachy tones, mimics trendy white oak well without having to shell out more money for hardwood and its installation.

Cabinets also can be made to look like they cost more than you paid. Refinishing, repainting and adding new hardware can look good instantly. If your cabinet fronts are old-fashioned, buying new fronts and then staining or painting them is a less-expensive alternative to purchasing all new cabinetry. It will add the “wow factor” without the expense of brand-new cabinetry.

Money Saving Landlord Tips

This may sound obvious but the best way to maximize the money coming in from your rental is to make sure the running expenses are kept to a minimum. Investing in a few heavy duty or higher quality items throughout the property will ensure costly repairs aren’t eating into your profits.

  • Stay away from carpet, which looks good for the first week but could need replacing after each tenant. Instead, install easy-care flooring such as vinyl plank, which is hardwearing, waterproof, and easy to clean.
  • Investing in a heavy duty garbage disposal unit saves clogged drains, plumber visits and many headaches.
  • Speaking of plumbers, it’s also wise to spend a little extra on a reliable, durable toilet. Landlords spend a lot of money on repairing blocked or leaking toilets. Invest in a model with a powerful flush.
  • Expensive gas ranges are beautiful and welcomed by seasoned chefs but they are also a fire hazard in a rental. Induction ranges are a better investment, since they are less expensive and fireproof. You might even save some money on insurance.

How Real Estate Agents Make Their Money

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At some point in their lives, most people will have enlisted the help of a real estate agent to buy or sell their home. While hiring a real estate agent isn’t required, many people turn to an agent for help navigating the process of buying or selling their home. Due to the many steps to complete a real estate transaction, licensed agents are a valuable asset. With all that said, how do they make their money?


Most real estate agents are paid on commission after completing the sale of a home, which is typically 5 to 6 percent of a home’s sale price. The seller usually pays both the listing agent and the buyer’s agent’s commission fees once the home has been sold. The listing agent and buyer’s agent split the commission equally, usually. Buyers might unknowingly pay a portion of the commission because most sellers factor it into the asking price.

A portion of the commissions are also paid to brokers, which varies based on the experience of the agent. Experienced agents may keep as much as 90% of the commission, whereas new agents may pay as much as 70%.

Despite the fact that real estate commissions can take a significant portion of a seller’s profits, these fees are negotiable and variable, so there is hope for sellers. In order to prevent clients from finding lower commission rates, brokerages cannot agree to fixed commissions together, in violation of antitrust laws. According to the value brought to clients, commissions must be determined independently by each broker or brokerage.

Other Factors

How much they can actually make really depends on a few factors, such as sale price, real estate brokerage policies, the housing market, and more including:

  • Expertise: Agents who have more experience earn higher incomes than those who have less experience. Long-term agents tend to have greater market insight, a deeper understanding of successful techniques, and stronger ties to the industry in general.
  • Overhead Expenses: A real estate agent is generally responsible for the costs associated with running their business. These include transportation, office supplies, renewals of licenses, training, and advertising.
  • Location: Real estate commissions are influenced by the market where an agent works, because listing prices vary accordingly. In large urban areas, real estate prices are typically higher and there are more opportunities, leading to higher commissions for agents in these areas.

Helpful Contingencies

Agents typically only make money if a sale is completed. However, real estate agents can protect themselves through contingencies in listing agreements, guaranteeing their pay if a sale falls through due to something out of their control. Some agents may also add a fee in the listing agreement for marketing services, such as professional photography, in the event a home doesn’t sell.


While rare, some real estate agents are paid an annual salary and earn bonuses rather than a commission. Some agents might prefer the predictability of a salary and choose to work with a brokerage that pays an annual salary and bonus instead of working on commission.

Home Inspection Timeline

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A home inspection is a process where a licensed home inspector inspects the property, structural components, and major systems, including the heating and cooling, plumbing, electrical, and gas. After the inspection, the inspector puts together a detailed report of their findings and provides this report to the customer.

While home inspections can be requested by the seller, it is much more common for the buyer to hire a home inspector to inspect a property before finalizing a sale. The purpose of this inspection is to highlight any issues with the home, so that the buyer can make an informed decision about whether or not to go through with their purchase.‍

Length of Inspection

The duration of your home inspection will depend upon the size, age, and condition of your home, as well as the weather during the inspection. Houses between 1,500 and 2,000 square feet will generally take about two hours to inspect. Add an additional 30 minutes for every 500 square feet beyond that. Homes that are in better condition have fewer issues for the inspector to evaluate and record. Most times the poorer the condition of the house, the longer the inspection will take. There are more unique systems and components in homes more than 75 years old. You can expect that older homes will take about an hour longer to inspect than newer builds.

Weather During Inspection

If your home inspector is doing their job correctly, they are going to be climbing up on the roof at some point during the inspection. This becomes a lot more difficult—or even impossible—if it is raining, snowing, or especially windy. Adverse weather conditions may mean a delay in the inspection, or require the inspector to come back and finish the job at another time.

Type of Foundation and Number of Systems

Houses with crawl spaces or basements typically take 30 minutes to an hour longer to inspect because the inspector will need to evaluate these areas as well. Your home inspector will also review each and every system in the home, including all heating, cooling, plumbing, and electrical systems. If there is an HVAC system, gas, or propane connected to the home, the inspection will take longer.

Completed Report

After the home inspection has been completed, the inspector will take the information they have gathered and they will put together a home inspection report that details their findings, including any fixes that should be made before purchasing the property. Receiving the report will typically take about 1 to 3 days after the inspection, though it may be a bit longer if the initial inspection was completed on the weekend or at the end of a work week.

Just So You Know

You are not required to be present at the inspection, but you should plan to be there to get the most value from the process. The inspection is the best opportunity you will have to speak with a knowledgeable, experienced, and unbiased professional about the condition of the home you intend to purchase. The inspector is not a contractor, their job is to give you an impartial, accurate, and detailed analysis of the home you are considering.

The Self-Employed Home Buyer

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When you’re self-employed and you want to buy a home, you fill out the same mortgage application as everyone else. Mortgage lenders also consider the same things when you’re a self-employed borrower: your credit score, how much debt you have, your assets and your income. It is true that self-employed homebuyers do have to jump through a few more hoops than a W-2 employee. Specifically, you’ll have to validate your income and self-employment history and have a record of uninterrupted self-employment income, usually for at least two years.

Since business owners or freelancers usually have an income that fluctuates, lenders have to take a closer look at the vitality and stability of your business. As far as what type of loan you can apply for, independent workers are eligible for the same standard home loans, such as conventional, FHA, VA, USDA, and even jumbo programs, as everyone else.

What Lenders Will Look At

  • Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI)
  • Income stability
  • The location and nature of your self-employment
  • The strength of your business financially
  • The ability of your business to generate sufficient income in the future

Depending on how your business is structured, you might be asked for two years of your 1099s or a statement from your accountant as proof of self-employment history. Lenders look at the net income when you’re self-employed versus the gross income of W-2 workers.

If you’re a contractor, beautician or another professional requiring a license, you could show a lender your state license as proof of how long you’ve been in business. You’ll also need to bring a signed year-to-date profit and loss statement, balance sheet, and at least three months of business bank statements.

Self-employed For Less Than Two Years?

You can still get a mortgage on your home, even if you’ve been self-employed for less than two years. Ultimately, your business must be active for a minimum of 12 consecutive months, and your most recent two years of employment (including non-self employment) must be verified. Your lender will likely do an in-depth look at your training and education to determine whether your business can continue a track record of stability.

Things To Keep In Mind

Whatever money you’re earning—including tips—counts. Lenders are mainly looking to see if your income is stable. Make sure to also include money earned at part-time gigs, seasonal and odd jobs.

If you charge business purchases, such as office supplies and equipment, to your personal card, you’ll increase your credit utilization. This could have a negative effect on your application. Keep your business and personal expenses separate by giving them their own accounts and credit cards. This will project a more favorable, truthful profile on your application.

Generally, processing a mortgage application will take the same amount of time as it does for a traditional borrower. However, gathering all your documentation can sometimes stall the process, especially if your business has recently experienced changes.

Homeownership Benefits

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There are many perks associated with buying a house that go beyond the house itself. For example, financial stability, financial strength, tax deductions, a permanent home, and a sense of community are all perks that come along with owning a home. The rewards of homeownership may seem daunting, but they are well worth it.

Long-Term Investment Opportunity

The monthly payment you make on your mortgage steadily accumulates equity, while you’re paying rent to your landlord without any kind of return. As a first-time homebuyer, you’ll benefit from the huge financial advantages of home ownership.

Purchasing a home provides for the first time homeowners with a sense of financial and lifestyle stability. Monthly mortgage payments might be less expensive than some rental rates. The price of homes has grown around 64% over the last five years; the price of homes grew over 290% over the span of thirty years.

Become Part of a Community

You can develop long-lasting relationships with neighbors and other members of your community when you purchase a home. If you own your home, you are less likely to move prematurely, which would otherwise prevent you from forming close relationships with friends, teachers, and local businesses. Getting settled can provide you with a new sense of support, making your life more comfortable.

We all know that moving from apartment to apartment, or house to house can be extremely demanding on your mind and body. Moving all of your belongings is extremely inconvenient and expensive. When you own your own home, it may be the last time you move. Regardless of whether it’s your forever home or not, you won’t have to deal with the stress of looking for a new place to live once your lease expires.

Tax Advantages

You may have the opportunity to claim a tax deduction as a homeowner. These deductions may be available for home improvement expenses, insurance premiums, claims on the house, and first-time homebuyers.

You may be surprised to hear about these tax deductions if you’ve never heard of them. The first-time homebuyer incentive is a lesser-known one, but it could help you save hundreds on your next tax return. You should speak with a tax professional if you have additional questions about the tax benefits of being a homeowner.

There are many perks to homeownership, whether it’s financial stability or a desire to belong to a local community. We can help guide you every step of the way if you’re ready to take the next step.

Using Your Home Equity To Help You Retire

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Over the last year the average homeowner in the United States gained roughly $64,000 in equity due to home price appreciation. Now, whether you’ve just retired or you’re thinking about retirement, you may be considering your options for this whole new stage of your life. Here are a few ways that you can go about converting your home equity into money for retirement.

Cash-Out Refinance

For retirees who don’t want to move, a cash-out refinance may be a viable option. A cash-out refinance is a new loan that replaces your existing mortgage. While other types of refinancing can result in a lower interest rate or change the length of your mortgage, a cash-out refinance leaves you with a new mortgage for an amount that exceeds what you currently owe. You then collect the difference in cash.

While the cash-out refinance will produce a lump sum of tax-free cash, there are risks and drawbacks associated with this type of transaction. In addition to paying closing costs, you also give up the equity you’ve presumably worked to build. And if the value of the home drops, you could end up owing more than the home is worth. Then again, if you’re committed to staying in your home and your retirement income can cover your monthly mortgage payments, a cash-out may be an option for you.


The most obvious option is to sell your home, purchase a smaller one and pocket the difference. Some retirees who downsize forgo buying a new home altogether and opt to rent instead. These retirees are less likely to be interested in building equity in their home over the course of several decades and instead view their home as an expense, not an investment.

Convert Your Home Into a Rental

Retirees with the energy and willingness to be a landlord can combine some of the above strategies to create a new income stream. If you own your home outright, you can take out a mortgage on the home and use the cash infusion to cover your retirement expenses, including buying a smaller home or renting an apartment. By converting your primary residence into a cash-flowing rental property, you’ll hang on to the home and use the monthly rent to cover your mortgage payments. pocketing whatever’s left over. Assuming the property remains rented, it will be a valuable asset to leave to your heirs as part of your estate.

Why You Should Always Buy A Home With An Agent

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When it comes time to buy a home, working with a real estate agent can make a huge difference. It is easy to browse the internet for your next home, but working with an agent can make a huge difference when it comes time to actually purchase a home. Buyer’s agents will assist you in finding the perfect home and guide you through the home buying process.

Here are the 5 reasons why working with an agent is the right move.

1. They’re Motivated

Their ability to find you the perfect home is what motivates real estate agents. Helping you find your dream is their bread and butter. It is rare for real estate agents to receive a salary, since the majority of them are independent contractors with the ability to make their own financial decisions. Having a motivated real estate agent means that you’ll live happily ever after in your new home.

2. They’re Connected To MLS

Home buyers and sellers rely heavily on the Multiple Listing Service(MLS) to communicate. If you are not working with a real estate agent, you will not have access to this information. There are many online tools for searching for homes but they don’t always include all available listings, which can impede your search. There are also dozens of forms, reports, disclosures, and other documents required when buying or selling a home.

3. They Can Save You Time

Those of you who have ever begun a home search online know how time-consuming this process can be. An agent can eliminate homes that do not meet your criteria once they understand what you want in a home. On top of that, agents attend events and open houses constantly in order to not waste their buyers’ time.

4. They Study The Market

From week to week, the one thing that changes is real estate. These changes can range from small, like a neighborhood with minor price fluctuations, to more significant, like interest rates. You will constantly be informed of volatile details because real estate agents are always monitoring changes for their buyer, which means you can buy the right home in the right area at the right time.

5. They’ll Get You A Reasonable Price

Real estate agents will help you get the most for your budget becoming your professional negotiator to seal the best deal for you. Your agent wants your purchase price to be a great investment so you can reap the financial benefits of being a homeowner. Knowing that your agent can ensure you that you do not pay too much for your new home is the best part.

Is It The Right Time To Buy Your First House?

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No one wants to buy at the top of the market, but it’s not clear whether the market has peaked—or if record-high home prices and fast-rising mortgage interest rates will continue ratcheting up even higher. Is this the right time to buy a house or should you put the search on hold?

Should You Pause Your Search?

The number of sellers forced to cut prices on their properties doubled in June compared to the same month a year ago, and there is less competition from buyers. As a result, fewer buyers are able to qualify for mortgages. Others worry about high prices and the prospect of another recession dropping out of the market, which means fewer bidding wars. Buyers don’t have to offer so much over the asking price—and might even be able to get a home for less than the asking price. They don’t need to waive as many contingencies as well.

That being said, It’s likely that those who wait until the fall or next spring are likely to encounter even more homes for sale, additional price cuts, and an increasingly buyer-friendly market. Waiting may also help with dealing with the terrible combo of high prices and rates that has pushed homeownership out of financial reach for many younger or less well-off buyers, which would require them to dangerously stretch their budgets.

Should You Continue Your Search?

Some real estate experts are predicting that home prices will just continue to rise. We know there are still far more investors and people out there who would like to become homeowners than there are properties available for them. Mortgage rates are another unknown. Mounting recession fears could keep them in check. When the Fed’s rates rise, mortgage rates typically follow suit. The continuation of rates moving higher would make homeownership even more expensive than it is today.

If you see indications that home prices and mortgage rates are continuing to sky rocket, you may need to act now. Those factors may price many aspiring homeowners, especially those who don’t have the proceeds from the sale of a previous home to help finance the next purchase, right out of the market. Or first-time and other buyers might have to look at cheaper homes, such as fixer-uppers and smaller properties without all of the features they had hoped for in less desirable locations.

It’s best to be vigilant about what’s happening in the housing market, as well as the broader economy. Look for clues on where it all might be heading. And don’t be afraid to negotiate with home sellers as well as mortgage lenders.

If rates fall one day, be ready to pounce immediately. Shop around for the best rates, consider paying points, which lower rates, and be prepared to haggle. You want to lock in the lowest rate you can find, yet maintain some flexibility so that if they fall even further, your lender will honor the lower rate.